Hope and Glory
Hope and Glory had originally been shown at the Biggar Film Club in 1988, and so we felt it was a fitting film to launch the new Biggar Little Cinema in March 2011. In addition, we were delighted when one of the stars, Scottish actor David Hayman, agreed to come to Biggar to introduce the film.
David Hayman speaking at our opening night, with the poster for the original showing of Hope and Glory in 1988
Hope and Glory Cinema Poster
John Boorman's intensely personal account of the bombardment of London during World War II has the warm burnish of nostalgia. Lovingly detailed, the movie tells the ostensibly horrific story of the blitz from the perspective of a nine year old boy.
Boorman packs his movie with moments of surreal and comic audacity, finding unlikely humour and wonder in the unrelenting German bombardment. This off-kilter conception of war, remarkably free of mayhem and grief, drew criticism from some quarters for what was perceived as a perverse indifference to tragedy. Such charges of insensitivity seemed to neglect Boorman's capacity for feeling. Tempering the movie's skewed comic vision is a humanistic generosity. The tumult of the war is not given short shrift: through Billy's uncomprehending and largely unsympathetic gaze, we see the blitz test familial unity and individual resolve alike.
Never cloying, the movie has a perfectly calibrated mood, finding a delicate balance between unrestrained emotion and blithe stoicism. Though its use of the child's-eye-view to see war from a perspective of innocence is a familiar trope, Boorman's film has its own distinctive voice. Its approach is wry, wistful, and ultimately highly engaging.
Hope and Glory won 5 international awards, and was nominated for 23, including 5 Oscars. The film won a BAFTA Award for Susan Wooldridge as Best Actress in a Supporting Role. Among others, it won the US Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture, and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay. It also won the Evening Standard British Film Award for Best Film.
He achieved much greater resonance with Deliverance (US, 1972, adapted from a novel by James Dickey), the odyssey of city people played by Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ronny Cox and Ned Beatty as they trespass into Appalachian backwoods and discover their inner savagery. This film became Boorman's first true box office success, earning him several award nominations.
At the beginning of the 1970s, Boorman was planning to film The Lord of the Rings and corresponded about his plans with the author, J. R. R. Tolkien. Ultimately the production proved too costly, though some elements and themes can be seen in Excalibur (see below).
A wide variety of films followed: Zardoz (1973), starring Sean Connery, was a post-apocalyptic science fiction piece, set in the 24th century. According to the director's film commentary, the 'Zardoz world' was on a collision course with an "effete" eternal society, which it accomplished, and in the story must reconcile with a more natural human nature.
Boorman was selected as director for Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977), but the resultant film was widely ridiculed and regarded by many as a total failure.
Excalibur (UK, 1981), a long held dream project of Boorman's, is well-remembered as a mythical film and one of the very few 'true' retellings of the Arthurian legend and tragedy. Boorman cast actors Nicol Williamson and (now Dame) Helen Mirren in spite of their protests, as the two disliked each other intensely, but Boorman felt their mutual antagonism would enhance their characterisations of the characters they were playing. The production was based in the Republic of Ireland where Boorman had relocated. For the film he employed all of his children as actors and crew, and several of Boorman's later films have been 'family business' productions.
Hope and Glory (1987, UK) is his most autobiographical movie to date, a part retelling of his childhood in London during The Blitz. Produced by Goldcrest Films with Hollywood financing, the film proved a Box Office hit in the US, receiving numerous Oscar, BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations.
In contrast, his 1990 US-produced comedy about a dysfunctional family, Where the Heart Is, was a major flop.
The Emerald Forest (1985) saw Boorman cast his actor son Charley Boorman as an eco-warrior, in a rainforest adventure that included commercially-required elements — action and near-nudity — with authentic anthropological detail. Rospo Pallenberg's original screenplay was adapted into a book of the same name by award winning author Robert Holdstock.
When his friend David Lean died in 1991, Boorman was announced to be taking over direction of Lean's long planned adaptation of Nostromo, though the production collapsed. Beyond Rangoon (US, 1995) and The Tailor of Panama (US/Ireland, 2000) both explore unique worlds with alien characters stranded and desperate in them.
Boorman won the Best Director Award at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival for The General, his black-and-white biopic of Martin Cahill. The film is about the somewhat glamorous, yet mysterious, criminal in Dublin who was killed, apparently by the Provisional Irish Republican Army.
In 2004, Boorman was made a Fellow of BAFTA
Released in 2006, The Tiger's Tail was a thriller set against the tableau of early 21st century capitalism in Ireland. At the same time, Boorman began work on a long-time pet project of his, a fictional account of the life of Roman Emperor Hadrian (entitled Memoirs of Hadrian), written in the form of a letter from a dying Hadrian to his successor. In the meantime, a re-make/re-interpretation of the classic The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz with Boorman at the helm was announced in August 2009, and in production in 2010.
Catch Us If You Can 1965